When I left the farm for college in 1965 already it was occurring to me that maybe life wasn't as black and white as I'd thought.

For instance, my parents were very loving, and my mother expressed a lot of that love in the form of rich and abundant food. Thus I grew up feeling wanted and cared for -- something that has given me a sense of worth and stability my whole life -- but already in 1965 I weighed over 300 pounds, and I got up to 340 before finally I took control.

Therefore, are all forms of selfless, well-meaning love unqualifiedly good? Having emerged from love-inspired fatness with hypertension, hemorrhoids, flat feet, flaps of extra skin and hypoglycemia, I'd say that even selfless, well-meaning love can have a dark side.

Though I would never qualify my parents' love as anything less than perfect, my childhood experience suggests that love comes in dumb and smart forms. Dumb love is expressed without consideration for the consequences, while smart love takes into account more than the moment's hankerings.

In a similar vein, patriotism is a form of selfless, well-meaning love, and as such there are dumb and smart forms of it.

Dumb patriotism appears whenever the flag is followed no matter who is carrying it, and wherever it is going. Smart patriotism considers the who and where of flag-following.

Today in America most people are indulging in dumb patriotism. Dumb patriotism has caused us to stand by while being led into an unwise, unjust and horrific war. It has caused us to accept bankrupting spending policies that have weakened us as a nation, and it has created an environment in which atrocities are committed in our name.

Though decades ago I took responsibility for my body, to this day I must deal with the hypertension and hemorrhoids of my childhood brush with dumb love. In the same way, future generations will find democracy and freedom much harder to nurture because of scores being settled after America's current indulgence in dumb patriotism.

How does all this fit into a naturalist's newsletter?

It is because I am in love with the living things of this planet. The things I love are being destroyed, and they are being destroyed at an accelerating pace. Here are the prime destructive agents:

1): Unrestrained consumerism, which is a subset of dumb love, the love of granting one another and oneself instant gratification

2): War making, which is fueled largely by dumb patriotism in many countries